A New Complexion On 50-Something

Why is an outbreak of spots threatening to ruin my whole life?

George Washington on Mount Rushmore with added red spots
Original images by: no longer here and 3282700/Pixabay

MY FACE HAS BEEN A MESS for a year now.

For a long time, I’ve been getting what I call ‘sweat spots’, which seem to flare up every time I exercise.

I’m the world’s sweatiest man, and having a face regularly covered in dirt and salt for hours is probably not the world’s greatest skincare regimen.

But the spots got much worse around the time of Lockdown 1: nowadays, the left-hand side of my Boat Race is in a state of almost constant eruption, and I’m sporting the sort of crags and scabs that went out of fashion when they finished Mount Rushmore. 

I don’t think it’s lockdown-related, but being in lockdown means I haven’t wanted to bother my doctor too much. Not with – you know – everything else that’s going on.

About six months ago, I did get fed up enough to send the surgery a picture of the damage, from which my GP diagnosed shingles, and prescribed me antibiotics.

These worked for about a week, but then the red, rashy, sore-y, scabby stuff roared back with a vengeance, and took up almost permanent residence on my upper left cheek and nose.  

And so, I’m back to Square One. I had terrible spots when I was a teenager, and I thought I’d more than done my fair share of wearing a Pizza Face.

But what makes it worse is that, at the age of 55, I don’t even have nice hair and a flat stomach to make up for it. Fucked off is not the word(s).

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One Year, One Place, Two Minds

We’ve been at home, oscillating between hope and fear, for a year. But we still don’t know if the world will emerge from Covid-19 a better place.

Image: Victoria Borodinova/Pixabay

THERE’S A GUY I KNOW, once sort of a friend, who then grew really to dislike me.

It wasn’t as if I loved him, either: he was a call-a-spade-a-spade sort of person, and could be blunt and insensitive. But it still hurt me when – abruptly – he decided that I was a wrong ’un.   

A few years ago, I heard that the same bloke had suffered a serious – and surprising – bout of depression. Word had it that he’d been signed off work for weeks after telling his doctor: “I just can’t get out of bed.”   

Having suffered with the condition for much of my life, I’d never have wished depression upon him, however much we disliked one another.

But, at the same time, I wanted him to learn something from it.

Now he knew what depression was like, maybe he’d be a bit humbler? Perhaps a little more understanding about what people like me went through?

In other words, I hoped he’d come out of his dark place somehow better.

But it never happened: this bloke recovered, he went back to work and normal life, and the next time I bumped into him, he was spectacularly hurtful and rude. In other words, just the same boorish prick he’d always been.

So why am I telling this story? Because, when I think about the post-Covid world, I worry that it’ll be like my former friend after his ordeal: just the same…

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Hard Times, Soft Fascinations

After a year ruined by Covid, nature can restore my faith in better times

THIS WEEK, THE UK marked a year of living with Covid-19, and I marked it by having a wobble.

I mean, it’s hardly an anniversary to celebrate, is it? One hundred and twenty-six thousand dead. Fear and uncertainty still rife, and the prospect of spending still more months in limbo, home alone.

Back in the day, the four of us went out to Clap For Carers every Thursday, but on Tuesday no-one felt much like standing on our doorstep, ‘reflecting’ on a terrible year and shining a frigging light.

To be frank, we don’t want any more gestures: we just want it all to be over.

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Life After Covid – Like Adding Just A Pinch Of Spice

Are you stressed out about going back to normal, post lockdown? Let’s think of some positives…

“Chill, Kieron, we’ll do you a song after lockdown.”


By the time I woke up, the kids were just starting to trickle into the school down our road, and I felt guilty that the teachers were already at work while I was still in my PJs.

But then I told myself that I shouldn’t be feeling that way, because being able to sleep more has been one of the major pluses of my pandemic.

If you’re a currently-working-from-home type, not having to get up in the dark and commute, and having more control of your life and routines, has been a real boon – even if there’s a worrying lack of actual work for me out there, due to the same pandemic.

As a writer, it’s been pleasant to think up interview questions in bed, have ideas while you do your stretching exercises – although you tend to lose count of how many you’ve done – and write articles in your Piggy Jimjams, as I’m doing right now.*

And, anyway, we’ll all have to get our heads around returning to normal soon, so we might as well enjoy it while we can.  

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Let’s All Stop Hating On February

It’s the month when things start to change for the better – just not fast enough

Original images: Prawny, Darwin Laganzon, Clear Free Vector Images (all via Pixabay)

IF EVER A MONTH had no mates, it would surely be February.

The 28 days we’re currently living through – or should that be enduring? – have had no end of detractors. In word and song, as well as in real life.

Perhaps its most famous rinsing came 50 years ago, when Don McLean sang: “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”.

And since then, a long queue of writers and musicians has formed to give our least favourite month a proper kicking.

Author Anna Quindlen, for example, once called Feb “a suitable month for dying”.

“Everything around is dead,” she added, “the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”

Alice McDermott asked: “late afternoon in early February, was there a moment of the year better suited for despair?”

Terrible, dreepy, dark”

Sebastian Barry, meanwhile, called the year’s second month: “Terrible, dreepy, dark”, and Clive Barker likened it to a monster, writing: “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.”

But, personally, I think we should be laying off February: for me it’s nowhere near as horrible as it’s made out to be, at least on this side of The Pond.

In fact, February is the month when things start to change for the better – it’s real problem is that it doesn’t change things quickly enough.

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Getting The Caramel Going

With its gibberish subtitles, India v England cricket on Channel Four is a sweet experience

Ravi Ashwin, cunningly lobbing sweeties at our batters

A CERTAIN SORT of English person is really quite excited at the moment because, for once, we can watch our national team play cricket on the TV without having to fork out for the privilege.  

The four-match series against India is currently being screened free-to-air on Channel Four – the first time we’ve seen our heroes in action abroad for nowt since the mid-1980s.

It’s difficult to express the uplift in mood that these pictures from sunny Chennai have given to the lockdown-weary, snowed-in and Brexit-battered people of these isles over the last five days – especially as England wasn’t having its arse handed to it, for a change.

And, having been denied the chance to travel pretty much anywhere because of Covid-19, there’s something more than usually awesome about having satellite pictures of the world’s best players beamed 5,099 miles, straight into your living room.

Denied stimulation of all sorts in lockdown, it’s been particularly poignant to watch our captain, Joe Root, smack 258 runs off India’s formidable bowlers during the course of the first match.

It was even better watching our plucky spinner Dom Bess dismiss the mighty Indian captain Virat Kohli for bugger all in the first test, and then follically-challenged Jack ‘The Nut’ Leach bamboozle Rohit Sharma with his mastery of dip and turn.

But perhaps the very bestest thing about Channel Four’s coverage is the way that its live commentary subtitles mangle both the game and the English language in the most surreal manner. It’s really worth the price of a subscription on all its own.

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You Are Now Entering A Testosterone Free Zone

I’m increasingly risk-averse these days – is it just another sign of ageing?  

THERE’S STILL A LITTLE bit of snow lying around here, left over from the flurry at the weekend.  

Today, I was thinking about going to the shops on my bike, but I didn’t fancy it: I was a bit worried about hitting a frozen patch, and tumbling off.  

I haven’t been running for a while, either – partly because of the still-icy pavements and the possibility of a slip, followed by yet another muscle tear or strain.

And while I was thinking all this, I asked myself: “When did you become such an old man? What happened to all that testosterone?”  

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Thighs Don’t Lie

My knees and hips are also furious about my new exercise regime

OF COURSE I’m on a health kick at the moment.

It’s January, season of new starts. And anyway, what else is there to do these days if you’re not a sainted Key Worker?

From what I can work out, everybody else’s motivation and productivity seem to have fallen off a cliff while we mooch around at home, waiting for our distant vaccinations and the post-Covid New Dawn.

Despite this (and as if there wasn’t enough for us to be down about already) many of us still feel we should be achieving something with all this lockdown downtime.

So I’ve decided to try and turn back the clock, yet again, to when I was thin and thirty-ish.

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Hiding From Covid In Another Century

In times like these, being stuck in the past can be a comfort  

Original image: girlfeet/Pixabay

WHEN I THINK BACK about what I did during the Covid-19 pandemic, I wonder if I’ll remember how much time I spent not being there.

What I mean is, I’ve spent a lot of this year hiding in books, which is something I’ve done to distract myself from sadness and worry ever since I was small.

But for some reason, most of my lockdown reading has been about history – whether it’s a novel set in times gone by, or an academic account of what went down back then.  

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How To Flip A Heavy Day Like A Judo Throw

Surprisingly, happiness lies in a blast of adverse weather

Original image: giografiche/Pixabay

TODAY WAS THE SORT of January day we all dread – cold and grey, with north winds driving tiny needles of sleety rain hard into your face.

We don’t have the world’s harshest weather here in the north temperate zone but – trust me – today was horrible enough.

When you threw in the post-Christmas comedown, worrying rates of Covid infections, and the Government announcing another six-weeks of lockdown, it added up to the perfect excuse for just sitting around and feeling fed up.

Which is precisely why I went outside…

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